Pg. 68-71 Technological advances in the litchi cultivar development programme

South Africa has a long history of litchi cultivation as well as litchi research, with a litchi breeding programme that commenced in 1992. Through the years, a number of new litchi cultivars were introduced to the industry. Although the new introductions were welcomed, they did not always perform as expected, and there were still areas in the production cycle that needed attention. It was realised that all initial efforts in litchi plant improvement were hampered by a lack
of genetic diversity available in the South African germplasm collection, and that old methodologies of open-breeding systems were not advancing quickly enough. Subsequently a quest for high quality cultivars worldwide lead to the importation of new germplasm with 30 new litchi cultivars and four longan cultivars imported from Australia and Israel
since 2013. The addition of these new cultivars to the breeding programme have substantially increased the probability of producing new and improved genotypes in years to come. Optimising the breeding techniques included parent characterisation, the establishment of a genotype reference database for litchis using molecular marker technology, and pollination studies aimed at viability and cross compatibility.

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